Medallion Name – FOUR CORNERS
Significance – Four Corners all the way around. The architecture of the buildings on the four corners of 17th and Champa Streets established 17th St as Denver’s business and financial district. The structures also honor Colorado’s unparalleled natural resources. Denver’s For Corners building use stones mined in the Four Corners region of the Colorado Plateau. One of the most majestic areas of the United States, the Four Corners boasts extraordinary deposits of many common and rare rocks and minerals in a rainbow of colors.
The four corners of 17th and Champa Streets are occupied by the Boston Building (1890), the Colorado National Bank (1915) the Railway Exchange (Title) Building (1937) and the Ideal Cement Building (1907). All were built of Colorado Yule marble, red sandstone and travertine.
Location – 39°44’50.4″N 104°59’33.9″W
Details – DENVER’S FOUR CORNERS BUILDINGS
828 17th St., Denver, CO 80202
added to the National Register of Historic Places: 9/18/1978, 78000841
State Register: 5DV.108
The Boston Building is a nine-story red sandstone building erected in 1890. It was planned to convey a solid presence in downtown Denver. Designed by the firm Andrews, Jacques and Rantoul (the same architects who devised the Equitable Building), this Romanesque structure was dubbed the first “strictly modern office building” in Denver. Located in the heart of the downtown financial district, the Boston Building had wooden floor joists supported by wood and steel beams with masonry bearing walls. Exterior walls are solid sandstone blocks up to 4’ thick, with individual blocks ranging from 2’ thick at the base to 5” thick at the parapet on 2 sides of the masonry block. On the other 2 sides, solid sandstone lintels or sandstone block arches span all exterior window/door openings.
The “strictly modern” structure was home to many prominent Colorado businesses of the day, including the Postal Telegraph and Cable Company, the Colorado Midland Railroad Company, Denver Water and Land Storage, Big Horn Land and Cattle Company, Struby-Estabrook Mercantile Company.
The construction of the Boston and Equitable Buildings along 17th Street shifted the Central Business District southeast of Larimer Street. 17th Street became known as the “Wall Street of the West” near the turn of the 20th century. The prestigious Boston Building was purchased by Charles Boettcher and Frederick Bonfils in 1920. Boettcher and Company by 1944, moved in and grew into the first Colorado company to gain membership to the New York Stock Exchange.
The building has undergone repairs and changes throughout its life. Due to weathering effects on the soft sandstone, some of the external ornamentation had to be removed, renovated or replaced. The building was originally embellished with a narrow but elaborate cornice with carved heads spaced along the soffit. The original cornice, as well as a decorative string course between the 6th and 8th floors, have both been removed. Additionally, the lower levels, which once sported rusticated stone, have been smoothed to match the appearance of the upper levels.
Kistler Stationery Company Building
1636 Champa St., Denver, CO 80202
added to the National Register of Historic Places: 4/14/1997, 97000298
State Register: 5DV.492
The 1916 Kistler Building abuts the adjacent Boston Building. It was the home of one of Colorado’s leading printers and stationery retailers from 1916 to 1966. The seven-story, two-part vertical block commercial Kistler Building was designed by Harry Edbrooke. It features distinct Late Gothic Revival details from the ground to the roof line. Constructed of poured concrete with brick sidewalls, the Kistler Building features glazed terra cotta pinnacles and other ornaments. Three tall flattened Gothic arches frame the first and second floors of the building complimented by three recessed arcade bays at ground level. The use of large window spaces with narrow mullions and horizontal panels gives the building the overall appearance of a glass wall typical of early 20th century commercial skyscraper styles. These elements herald the Kistler Building as one of the finest examples of commercial terra cotta structures in downtown Denver.
Both the Kistler Building and the Boston Building were completely renovated in the late 1990s and are now known as the Boston Lofts.
Colorado National Bank Building
918 17th St., Denver, CO 80202
added to the National Register of Historic Places: 4/27/10, 10000215
State Register: 5DV.524
The Colorado National Bank was established in 1862 and sold in 1998, making it one of the first and last locally owned banks in Colorado. Its flagship location at 900-18 17th Street was designed by prominent Denver architects William and Arthur Fisher. Opened in 1915, the impressive low-rise structure features a timeless white marble façade in neoclassical style which earned the Colorado National Bank the reputation of being “the bank that looks like a bank.” (Please see http://wallstreetoftherockies.com/a-bank-that-looks-like-a-bank/ for a more comprehensive history.) Two sides of the building feature arcades of fluted marble columns rising to the third story marble architrave. One of the bank’s major customers, the Colorado Yule Marble Company, provided the stone that faced the exterior. The same marble was used to build the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
In 1925, Merrill and Burnham Hoyt added a seamless addition. The lobby and mezzanine of the new building were the original site of banking operations, while the upper floors held offices for other businesses.
The interior resembles a European palace, with a classic marble colonnade and lofty coffered ceiling. The cosmopolitan mezzanine is graced by a beloved local touch – 16 large murals by Colorado’s premier native-born artist, Allen Tupper True. The series of paintings, collectively called Indian Memories, recalls the days when the Indians roamed the untouched reaches of the West.
Colorado National Bank played a leadership role in the renaissance of downtown Denver during the post-World War II years. Much to the neighborhood’s delight, the building has become a superb example of adaptive reuse. It has been rehabilitated and augmented and is now the Renaissance Denver Downtown City Center Hotel.
Ideal Cement Building
821 17th St., Denver, CO 80202
added to the National Register of Historic Places: 6/9/1977, 77000367
State Register: 5DV.125
As one of Denver’s “first” families, Charles Boettcher had already amassed a fortune in hardware, mining, cattle, and sugar. Around the beginning of the 20th century, the Boettcher family realized a need for local production of quality cement. Denver was booming, and there was a high demand for building materials. Boettcher, John Campion, and others founded the Portland Cement Company, which was later renamed the Ideal Cement Company.
To promote the capabilities of their cement company, in 1907 Boettcher commissioned Montana Fallis and John Stein to construct the eight-story Ideal Building. Promoted as the first reinforced concrete tower west of the Mississippi, owner Charles Boettcher had the building set on fire in the presence of the city building inspector to demonstrate its fireproof qualities.
To complete the design of the progressive structure, the first two floors were faced with large blocks of dressed travertine marble. The frieze work features carvings ranging from Rocky Mountain themes to American Indian motifs, stylized agriculture and epic animals. The brick of the upper floors was stuccoed in the 1920s. A 1927 addition designed by the Fisher and Fisher architectural firm grew the Ideal Building and it became home to banks.
The Ideal Building was fully restored to its original condition in the 1990s and has been converted into apartment lofts.
Railway Exchange Addition and Railway Exchange New Building
1715 Champa St. and 909 17th St. Denver, CO 80202
added to the National Register of Historic Places: 10/17/1997, 97001213
State Register: 5DV525/5DV
The 1909/1913 Railway Exchange Addition and the 1937 New Building are an exemplary paradigm on how to join a new edifice to an older structure both functionally and stylistically.
It also offers the unique opportunity to view the 30-year stylistic evolution of the Fisher & Fisher architectural firm.
The original 1876 Railway Exchange Building which once stood on the corner of Champa and 17th Streets had become too small. The esteemed local architecture firm Fisher & Fisher was commissioned to design a larger two-story vertical block commercial building. The results were the 1909 Railway Exchange Building, which is defined by beveled pilasters dividing the facade into five bays of paired windows. Within a couple of years, it grew too small, so the building was expanded to seven stories in 1913. The third through seventh stories repeat the five-bay paired-window fenestration and terminate in a decorative frieze with protruding cornice. The Commercial Style structure is also noteworthy for its terra cotta facade.
The business kept growing, so the original Railway Exchange Building was razed, and in 1937 the New Building was constructed on the corner of 17th and Champa. This seven-story commercial structure features a façade of white Indiana limestone in the Art Moderne style. Streamlined in appearance, the horizontal flow of the building is accentuated by its wide bands of metal frame casement windows underscored by thin aluminum band belt courses and rounded corners. The New Building is considered to be Denver’s finest example of Art Moderne commercial architecture.
Combined, the Railway Exchange Buildings provide an exemplary solution to the challenge of joining a new property to an older structure both functionally and stylistically. Thankfully, the buildings have been restored to their original grandeur and are now home to the Hotel Monaco.
All of the Four Corners buildings are part of the honored Downtown Denver Historic District. This preservation area was created in 2000 by the City of Denver as a non-contiguous area within the core downtown neighborhood. It has preserved 43 buildings identified as architecturally or historically significant and worthy of preservation. Please notice how these magnificent historic buildings create a stunning contrast to the slick modern towers that surround them, giving Downtown Denver a unique urban fabric that enriches the visual experience of the central business district.
THE GEOLOGY OF COLORADO’S FOUR CORNERS
The Colorado Plateau is one of America’s most treasured areas. Roughly centered on the Four Corners, the region reaches further than 130,000 square miles as it spreads through western Colorado, northwestern New Mexico, southern and eastern Utah, and northern Arizona.
Beyond a wide variety of stone and mineral mines, the Colorado Plateau has the greatest concentration of U.S. National Parks. Among our natural splendors are the Grand Canyon, Glen Canyon, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, Arches, Mesa Verde, and Petrified Forest. Among its 17 National Monuments are Rainbow Bridge, Dinosaur, Hovenweep, Wupatki, Sunset Crater Volcano, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Natural Bridges, Canyons of the Ancients, Chaco Culture National Historical Park and the Colorado National Monument.
The Colorado Plateau is largely made up of high desert, with scattered areas of forests. Nicknamed “Red Rock Country” because of the brightly colored sandstone rock shaped by dryness and erosion, the area is strewn with curious geologic features like domes, hoodoos, fins, reefs, goblins, river narrows, natural bridges, and slot canyons.
Near the Plateau is the town of Marble – the center for Yule Marble, official state rock of Colorado.
What makes Yule Marble special is that its metamorphosed limestone is found only in the Yule Creek Valley in the West Elk Mountains. First discovered in 1873, it is quarried today inside a mountain at 9,300 feet above sea level. (Most marble is quarried from an open pit and at much lower elevations.)
The localized geology created a marble that is 99.5% pure calcite, with a grain structure that gives a smooth surface that polishes well. These qualities are why it has been chosen for a number of major national and state landmarks, most notably the Lincoln Memorial and the Colorado State Capitol. Yule Marble quarried between 1907 and 1941 can be found in banks, mausoleums, libraries, schools, hotels, and government buildings from coast to coast including the Equitable Building skyscraper in New York City and Denver.
Travertine is mined throughout Colorado. Travertine is a form of limestone deposited by mineral springs, especially hot springs. It often has a fibrous or concentric appearance and exists in white, tan, cream-colored, and even rusty varieties. It is formed by a process of rapid precipitation of calcium carbonate, often at the mouth of a hot spring or in a limestone cave, where it forms spiky stalactites and stalagmites. In the U.S., the most well-known place for travertine formation is Yellowstone National Park, where the geothermal areas are rich in travertine deposits.
- What makes Denver’s Four Corners architecture special?
- What is the name of the area with 10 National Parks?
- Name some of the unique features of the Colorado Plateau?
- What is the state rock of Colorado?
- Yule marble is made mostly of which mineral?
- * Bonus question: What states make up the Four Corners National Monument?